Kai Greene Wins His First Arnold Classic!
After a whirlwind prejudging, the competitors had a few hours to relax, eat and - quite possibly - drink a little water. It was very close between many of the competitors; adjustments were made by each competitor to improve for the night show.
Although none of the competitors would be able to pull off the dramatic transformation of Jay Cutler between the judging and finals at the Mr. Olympia last fall, many of the athletes at the 2009 Arnold Classic did make improvements between the afternoon and evening shows. Kai's conditioning was improved from the judging. He looked a few pounds lighter and much tighter. He told me was going to eat and sleep after the judging. I guess his food and sleep trick worked. Despite all the rumors flying around about him, Kai overcame all the naysayers and became victorious in a display of hardcore muscle mass, superb conditioning and out-of-this-world presentaion. For his hard work and perseverance, Kai Greene is now $130,000 richer.
At about 6:45 p.m., the competitors started getting oiled up as photographers eagerly flashed away. Each one trying to get capture the perfect shot for their own respective publication or web site. The competitors looked more relaxed than before the judging. It's amazing what a few hours of rest and food can do!
The pumping up process contained lots of lateral raises with dumbbells or the fitness rubber bands. Most were doing them slow and methodical just to get some blood in the muscle to "feel" bigger and wider. Pushups performed standing while leaning on an incline bench was the other pump-up exercise of choice used by the athletes.
A few minutes before 7:00 p.m. the athletes were lined up and marched out of the pump-up are and to the backstage area. It was time for battle. And battle they did. Here are the final placings and a quick rundown of the top-six athletes.
Sixth Place - Moe El Moussawi
Sporting a new haircut,
Big Moe started off the night with his display of hard-earned muscle. Moe El Moussawi improved slightly for the evening show and fixed some of his coloring problems from earlier in the day. His conditioning was better in the evening and showed that he deserved a top-six spot in the Arnold Classic.
Fifth Place - Silvio Samuel
El Matador looked like he was a little sharper at the evening show. I didn't think that was even possible. With Silvio Samuel, though, you never know... Top seven at the
Olympia and top six at the Arnold Classic - Silvio has established himself as "first-tier" IFBB pro.
Fourth Place - Toney Freeman
Toney's conditioning got me fired up to try his way of dieting when I start to cut up next month. Freeman follows a high-protein, medium-fat, low-carb diet. By looking at the X-Man, it appears his nutritionist, Dave Palumbo, is onto something.
(Toney eats a lot of bison so perhaps I can give you an insider's trading tip and have you invest in companies that produce buffalo meat. Once this 43-year-old's diet plan catches on, bison stocks will soar!)
The X-Man used music that was a little different from what he's used in the past. It was a little funky and at first I didn't think he could pull it off, but he proved me wrong and I actually like the routine. Toney exhibited great conditioning, but he lacked fullness; he looked a little flat. At his height, he can't come in flat at all. If he was a little fuller he might have edged Branch Warren out for third place.
Third Place - Branch Warren
Branch Warren had the misfortune of being sandwiched between Kai Greene and Marcus Haley. If you've just crawled out from under a rock and don't know that Greene and Haley are among the best posers in the IFBB, I'm here to tell you that they are the best posers in the IFBB. Branch brought his rugged muscularity to the stage and the crowd loved it, despite following Kai Greene. Branch always puts everything he has into the most muscular pose and it looked like his head would explode at the end.
Warren didn't have the prettiest physique on the Arnold classic stage, but it was definitely the most brutal-looking one. Branch is on his way to another Olympia with his top-six spot qualification.
Second Place - Victor Martinez
Victor was listening to his iPod for the last few minutes of the pump-up time to either psyche up or calm himself down. During the judging I was looking at Martinez while standing off to the side and waiting during one of the callouts. He upper looked massive and his shoulder width was incredible.
Victor had a fluid and smooth posing routine and displayed great muscle control. He's able to control his back muscles much like Melvin Anthony does during his routines. Doing some side lunge poses was an excellent way of telling the crowd his leg is okay and ready to continue with some brutal workouts while preparing for the Mr. Olympia in September.
Victor had to settle for second this time out. Looking on the bright side, however, Victor was able to capture second place after recovering from a knee surgery only one year ago. That feat is not easily duplicated. It reminds me of Flex Wheeler coming back after his terrible car wreck in the early 1990s. Vic will be training with a vengeance for this year's Mr. Olympia.
First Place - Kai Greene
Kai looked better than I thought he would. It surprised me. (That's what I get for listening to all the experts on the Internet.) Weighing 257, Kai was packing a lot of muscle on his five-foot-eight physique. It is incredible how much muscle he has accumulated in recent years. It's almost unheard of at the pro level. It's reminiscent of what
Ronnie Coleman accomplished between the 2002 to the 2003 Mr.Olympia. If Kai Greene keeps making those improvements, he very well could be battling Phil Heath for Mr. Olympia titles in the very near future.
Kai had the most dynamic routine in the competition. He does a series of twists, twirls, spins, slides and headstands while doing bicycle kicks that no one has ever even tried before. It was tame compared to his routines in the past, but I liked it much better than ones I've seen in prior competitions.
Moe, Vic, Silvio, Kai, Branch, and Toney were announced as the top-six finalists. After one last round of comparisons, the athletes went head-to-head in one of the longest posedowns I've seen. Victor and Branch to the traditional head-to-head most muscular pose at each other to the crowd's enjoyment.
The athletes filed off stage and a short presentation was shown for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Lifetime Achievement Award. This year's recipient was none other than Arnold's Sardinian Sidekick, Dr. Franco Columbu.
Following Franco's award was the Strongman Competition, which was won by Derik Poundstone. These guys performed one-armed overhead presses with a 202-pound dumbbell with a handle that is three inches in diameter.
After a brief period to clean the stage from the Strongman Competition and announcing the overall Amatuer winners, the Most Muscular and Best Presentation Awards were handed out.
Branch Warren was again awarded the Most Muscular Award. It's his third win. Without surprise, the Best Poser was won by Kai Greene.
Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a pep talk and explained that despite the poor economy, the fitness industry is alive and well. More tickets were sold this year for the Arnold Classic than ever before.
The final six were again brought back out on stage and the placings were announced. Not every competitor was happy with the results, but they were fair. I saw Victor maybe having a very slight edge in the judging. He faded, though and Kai got stronger as the night progressed. It was a well-deserved win for Kai Greene. I can't wait to see him in Las Vegas this September!